William Wardell’s St John’s College, Sydney, considered the grandest and architecturally most distinguished university college in New South Wales, is an exceptional example of 19th century Gothic Revival architecture. The information board outside the college states that St John’s is ‘a rare realisation of Pugin’s ideal Catholic College’ and further that ‘it demonstrates [Pugin]’s profound influence on the work of Wardell’. This is but a small part of the story. The commission for St John’s College was far more complex. The correspondence between the architects, William Wardell, Edmund Blacket and others, and St John’s Council indicates that right from the beginning there was a general lack of understanding of Wardell’s original design concept for the building. This has continued to the present day, as evidenced by the information on the board outside St John’s College, in which it is incorrectly assumed that Wardell’s proposal included a quadrangle as featured in Pugin’s ‘ideal College’. This paper, based largely on primary sources, investigates such claims about St John’s, considers William Wardell and the Gothic Revival, examines St John’s College within the University of Sydney – its design and its translation and posits a few conclusions leading to new understandings.
Field of Research
120103 Architectural History and Theory
Socio Economic Objective
970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design
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